Gaskella’s Midweek Miscellany #3

In this week’s Miscellany, an interesting debate on charity v secondhand shops, a progress report on the LOTR readalong, and some new arrivals at Gaskell Towers …

Something which caught my eye at the weekend was a post by Scott Pack at Me & My Big Mouth on a big debate topic about charities edging out proper secondhand bookshops. This is a debate that has been going for some time. Apparently second-hand dealers have shut up shop in Oxford due to the success of the Oxfam bookshop for instance.  However that pesky Susan Hill upped the ante with her article in the Spectator Blog. Please, do read them both and make up your own mind.

What do I think?

Well – Abingdon where I live currently supports six+ charity shops, two wonderful independent bookshops, a WH Smith + Tesco – we don’t have a dedicated secondhand bookshop – but do have a library too.  That makes a huge number of places to get books for all budgets in just a small town.  So far they all co-exist with each other – although WH Smith has only been in place literally next door to ‘The Bookstore’ since just before Christmas. Personally, I always prefer to shop in our local independents where possible.  However as charity shops go, I almost exclusively support, by buying from and donating to (gift aiding my donations), our local children’s hospice shop – Helen & Douglas House. I know families who have used it, and a nurse friend works there.  Although they now have over twenty shops in Oxfordshire, our local one has a large turnover of good quality books at fair prices, and I know where my money’s going; that reassures me more than anything else.  

Wherever else I go, I find it hard to walk past a bookshop – of whatever variety, but I have noticed less second-hand bookshops, (I’ve never been to Hay). But then I buy online too – and the second-hand market appears to be thriving there – is that where they’ve all gone then?


Now to the LOTR Readlong.  This month we embarked on the book proper with The Fellowship of the Ring.  Claire at The Literary Omnivore is hosting this month, if you want to check others’ progress.

It definitely feels like the real thing after the narration of the Hobbit, however we’re eased in gently with some Hobbit history, before we meet them.  Gandalf turns up and  Frodo finds out about his burden, then thinks about it until almost winter before setting off on the epic journey. 

Once they’re out of the sphere of their world though, they soon get lost and have to be rescued by Tom Bombadil (twice).  Bombadil, who represents nature is a kind of Green Man, and is only really interested in maintaining the land’s status quo, and is jolly boring, boringly jolly, so it’s a relief when they get to Bree and meet Strider … (aaah!  Aragorn – sigh …).  Then they’re dodging the black riders and having a long, hard journey until they reach Rivendell – which is like a five star hotel with all the facilities.

One thing the film did, was to enlarge the few women’s parts in the story – much was made of the romance between Aragorn and Arwen, Elrond’s daughter.  I probably never really noticed it on previous readings, and it doesn’t get many lines here, but I was sensitised to it by the film and was glad to spot them this time. 

So things are starting to hot up, and I was really beginning to enjoy it all once again and looking forward, (with some trepidation knowing what happens) to the second half and beyond. A wrap-up post on LOTR Book 1 will follow nearer the end of the month.


Finally, some recent additions to the TBR mountains…

    The Still Point by Amy Sackville. I fell in love with the cover instantly. It starts in the Arctic a hundred years ago when an explorer goes missing. Then a hundred years later his great-grand-niece is sorting out the family home and the inherited clutter from the fated expedition and a discovery gives her cause to review her knowledge of her ancestor’s relationships and her own. I can’t wait to read this one.
    Little Hands Clapping by Dan Rhodes. I’d have bought this book eventually anyway, but Simon’s championing of it led me to order the hardback and I’m looking forward to diving into it soon.
    Troubadour by Mary Hoffman. Another book with a lovely cover, this is a historical novel for YA/adults featuring a young noblewoman who runs away with a troubador to escape marriage. Set in the Cathar region of southern France during the Crusades, this was recommended to me my Mark at Mostly Books.

    The Illusionist by Jennifer Johnston. One of the Not The TV Book Group choices for March. I’m looking forward towards being able to join in the discussions – my copy of the first book for last week didn’t arrive in time. On Sunday 21st Feb the group will be discussing one of my top books from 2009 The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw, hosted over at Savidge Reads – see you there I hope.

18 thoughts on “Gaskella’s Midweek Miscellany #3

  1. I was surprised when I was reading Fellowship to encounter Glorfindel – I’d completely forgotten about him, as they gave his bits to Arwen in the film. I think it worked pretty well, actually, bringing Arwen in then, although I wasn’t crazy about Liv Tyler. But yeah, Tom Bombadil is made of boring.

    • I’m thoroughly enjoying the whole re-read though. The book still comes out ahead of the films, although I did enjoy them.

  2. You may be proving the case for the argument that charity shops are pushing out second hand book shops. Abingdon is quite a rich town, but as you say it supports 6 charity shops, but no SH book shop. If the charity shops weren’t there then I’m sure a SH book shop would be.

    I’d much rather see charity shops though. They support good causes and I love the treasure hunting aspect. SH book shops always know the correct value of books, so you are not likely to find many bargains!

    • I’m slightly confused by the whole thing as you may have gathered. I do love treasure-hunting in charity shops though, as well as finding a bargain online.

      But, I’m also happy to pay full price for a book recommended by a bookseller that I might not have discovered another way too.

  3. Interesting! I’m not sure how many charity/secondhand/independent bookshops there are in my new neighbourhood, but I’m pleased to see there are quite a lot of all types. I will and do buy books from all sources and am pleased if the proceeds go towards charities.

    I suppose this is a change from moaning about libraries providing books for free as opposed to bookshops etc but I think there is a place for all and it is supposed to be a “free” market, or am I wrong there?

    LOTR – I reread the books after seeing (and being a bit disappointed with the films) and was surprised at how styalised (is that the right word?) Tolkien’s writing is. I hadn’t noticed it before. Actually Tom Bombadil was one of my favourite characters years ago – he’s boring is he? Strider/Aragorn is seriously aaah … sigh, isn’t he!! This is definitely making me reach for my copy.

    • You can always pop down to Alnwick for a trip to Barter books too Margaret …

      I agree with you about it being a free market – business is business and you survive or fail. Those people who complain about unpaid volunteers at charity shops too, should ask themselves why people volunteer!

      I didn’t warm to Bombadil in Vol 1 as he was so one-track-minded there – although we find our more about his back-history in Vol II if I remember rightly.

  4. Oh, I love Tom Bombadil. He’s just so out there and strange. But strange as he is the tress and the barrow spirits listen to him. It just kills me that he can be both silly and random and one of the most powerful people in the book.

    And it wasn’t until I think my 3rd reading of FOTR that I even noticed Arwen. The first two times I read it, I honestly thought she wasn’t mentioned until she showed up for the wedding. And that felt seriously anti-climactic. This time, it’s obvious to me what’s going on, but the references to her relationship w/ Aragorn are so brief you’ll miss them if you blink. I’m glad Jackson gave that storyline a little more oomph in the movies.

  5. Down the road in Balham they have three great charity shops and a huge secondhand bookshop which is doing really well, the guy just has no life and works seven days a week but its his passion and generally (though the money is going to a good cause) people in a charity shop (bar the Oxfam specials) can’t recommend a read the way a book seller would.

    Oh and thanks for the link love Annabel!

    • The best booksellers are worth their weight in gold – they can always recommend a good title. It appears that SH bookshops are becoming more and more niche though as charity shops cover the generalist market these days.

      Looking forward to NTTVBC this weekend …

  6. Oh Gaskella you are dangerous! I have recently finished The Blasphemer (which I saw here first) and loved it and now I see Still Point in your recent arrivals and it looks fantastic – yet another book to add to my wishlist. I will avidly await your review of it…

  7. I’ve seen this on the shelves in Smiths (awful shop) and was tempted to spend a book token on it. Now perhaps I shall after reading your excellent review.

    Thanks for visiting mine – you have a great blog here – not sure how I’ve not seen it before! I’ve added you to my blogroll

  8. I like the idea of a midweek miscellany – an idea I might copy when I relaunch A Common Reader in April.

    I only have local access to a Waterstones (in Eastbourne) and tend to rely on The Book Depository and my library. Review copies too of course

    • My other reply was intended for your other comment. Lots of bookbloggers do a periodic round-up post – I decided to do mine midweek, as most of the others are at the weekends. I love reading other people’s round-ups, it’s nice to talk about other bookish things.

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